The Lucky Break
after her dad?
Her mother couldn’t stand an empty room, so she filled
every available space with furniture. Got to the point where you couldn’t turn
around without cracking an elbow or knocking a knee against some solid piece of
it. Dana promised herself, when she got a place of her own, she’d have one room
with absolutely nothing in it.
She’d lie in her bed at night and dream about that
possibility. She’d open the door and step into an emptiness that went on for
miles in all directions. The very idea of it made her sigh with relief.
She could spread her arms in that room, and twirl and dance and jump—even
overhead, because the ceiling was so high she couldn’t see the end of it. She
could sing or yell or scream, and her voice traveled so far it just
In the mornings, when she sat at the breakfast table with
her mother, she knew better than to mention her dreams. Her mother didn’t like
the idea of a barren room; or rather, she did, but only in the context of
filling it up with furniture.
“I thought we’d go antiquing this weekend,” her mother
suggested one Friday morning as she sipped her bitter coffee. “There’s a flea
market this Sunday in Waketcha County, and since I just got paid, I want—”
“I really don’t want to go shopping for more junk this
weekend.” Dana’s shoulders sagged at the thought of wasting a day looking at
old furniture, or worse, dragging it back to the house and spending hours
deciding where to fit it in.
“It won’t be junk, sweetheart, it’ll be a treasure. We’re
going treasure hunting.” Her mother
dismissed her protest and began to flip through a dog-eared IKEA catalog.
“Whatever. I have to go or I’ll be late for class.” Dana
kissed the air by her mother’s cheek.
“Hmm, love you,” her mother mumbled, still engrossed in the
In class, Dana daydreamed. She sketched floor plans of
vacant rooms in spacious houses instead of taking notes.
“Hey Dana,” her friend, Judy, who sat behind her, whispered,
“look what I found!”
Dana turned enough to look over her shoulder. “What is it?”
“A little bird’s wishbone. Can you believe it? Found it on
the sidewalk under the elm tree. Wanna make a wish?” The girl giggled
“Sure, why not?” Dana grabbed one leg of the wishbone and
yanked. She ended up with the larger half.
“Damn!” Judy whined, “I hoped I’d get the big end. I wanted
my wish to come true. I mean, I’m the one who found the wishbone!”
“Yeah, well, we can’t all get the lucky break.” Dana smiled
as she turned back to her desk. Wouldn’t
it be nice if wishes did come true?
When the last bell finally rang, she gathered her books and
trudged home, not looking forward to navigating her way through her mother’s
overcrowded house. Sometimes, she thought of home as being a dark, alien forest
she had to traverse to get to the sanctuary of her room. She followed the
well-worn path in the carpet.
At dinner, apropos of nothing, Dana put her fork down and
said to her mother: “You’re a hoarder, like the people I’ve seen on TV shows
about that. You collect furniture instead of dolls or knickknacks. I mean, this
place is like an overstocked warehouse. I can’t stand—”
Without looking up, her mother said simply, “Go to
Dana shoved her chair back abruptly, knocking into
the sideboard close behind her, which in turn knocked over a large pottery
vase. “See what I mean? Can’t move an inch in this house without—”
“I said, go to your room.”
Dana slammed her bedroom door. “Living in this house
is like living in a losing game of Tetris,” she shouted.
Her mother said something
in reply Dana couldn’t hear, maybe about how that was her favorite game when
she was younger, or something lame like that. Dana didn’t care what her mother
had to say. She plopped down on her bed and fantasized about a perfect, vacant
room. Before long she was asleep.
Next morning, she rose long after sunrise. Like she
did every weekend, she put on her grubbiest jeans and t-shirt—her comfy clothes,
she called them—a fashion disaster, her mother said. Still
muddleheaded with sleep, she opened her door and walked out into the hallway.
The small bookcases and end tables cluttering up the hall were gone; perhaps
her mother had moved them—most likely to make room for whatever junk she bought
The den was empty as well, and so were all the other
rooms of the little house. And where was her mom, anyway? Before she gave over
to her rising panic, the thought occurred to her: this must be a dream, a dream
of uncluttered spaces. She smiled
and stretched. I should pull back the
curtains, and let bright clean sunlight flood this place, she decided. It’ll
be like I’m in an aquarium full of air
and light instead of murky water and slimy rocks. She hopped over to the
window and pushed back the curtain to find—
Nothing. Oh, there was light emanating from somewhere—to
bathe a landscape of emptiness: no color, no shapes, and no depth—just nothing.
Dana turned from the window to find herself in that same vacuous landscape
stretching before her, beneath her, above her—nothing. This place didn’t leave
her feeling elated and free, as she had speculated it would. Instead, she felt
lost and abandoned. She didn’t care for this dream at all.
“Ok, Dana,” she said bravely to herself, “time to wake up.”
She slapped her own face, hard enough to bring tears. “Hey mom! MOM!” she
yelled, hoping her mother would hear her and come rushing into her room to
gently shake her awake, like she’d do when Dana was little and had nightmares.
But her distress call just faded into the ether, and her mother didn’t answer.
Dana thought. If I can find the window
and close the curtain, maybe this will go away and the house will return to
normal. Dana turned in a circle, frantically. There was no window to be
seen, no curtain to be pulled.
“Stupid, stupid wish!” Dana cried. “I take it back. I
un-wish it! I don’t want it!”
But the powers that grant wishes rarely revoke them.
Sometimes, though, they will alter them just for fun.
“I miss my mother! I miss all my mother’s furniture! I miss
the crowded house! I want it all back, and I want it back now! Judy can have
the damn wishbone! Please just give it all back—”
Overhead, small specks grew into larger spots, spots that
cast dark shadows over Dana. She looked up just in time to jump aside, as a
heavy wooden sideboard came crashing down beside her, and, after that, the
dining room table, and then the Victorian-era sofa. Each piece landed
haphazardly atop the other, building a towering stack. More and more items
fell, creating new towers, with each piece locking into place. Soon, everywhere
Dana ran, she was blocked by furniture. She realized she must climb up one of
those towers to escape to…who knew where?
So up she went, dodging small items like ottomans and lamps
and end tables and potted plants, climbing higher and higher until she finally
reached the topmost point. Standing up, she looked at all the junk below, and
then, far away, she heard tinkly 8-bit music—familiar music from an old video
game. Before she could form a coherent thought about this, Dana and all the
furniture and assorted junk came tumbling down, and disappeared.
Lyon, Lyonwrite@gmail.com, who wrote BP #78’s “The Lucky Break,” lives in southern Arizona, where
she founded and still edits poetry journals for Subsynchronous Press. Her
stories have appeared in 365 Tomorrows,
Night to Dawn, Eternal Haunted Summer,
and numerous horror anthologies such as Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife, Stories from the Graveyard, Fright Mare, and More Tales from the Blue Gonk Cafe. When not writing,
hand-paints boxes and furniture in the colorful, Dia de los Muertos